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Following Trails in Jasper National Park

There’s something irresistible about following trails in Jasper National Park. I want to know where the trails go. The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide is my checklist. There are trails I’ve checked off the list—I know where they go and what there is to see. Other trails remain mysteries to be discovered, notes and pictures in my trail book, waiting to be followed.

Following Trails in Jasper National Park

Following Trails to a Destination

Some trails have definite destination, a place you are striving to get to. Perhaps that place is the top of a mountain, with an awesome view of the valleys all around you.

I climbed Whistler’s Mountain in Jasper, Alberta, this spring with some friends. It was a steep, tough hike to the top, but once there, it was like standing on the roof of the world. We had a panoramic view of everything for 360 degrees. Mountains all around us. Definitely a destination worth getting to.

Following Trails for the Journey

Other trails are journeys, where the exciting part is the trail itself. You travel these to see what you can see along the way—the mountain passes, the alpine meadows, the lonely valleys. Each day you wake up and break camp and hit the trail again, following it to see where it will lead you and what it will show you along the way.

The best of these is North Boundary, meandering along the northern boundary of Jasper National Park to Mount Robson. Mount Robson is not the destination; it is only where the trail ends. What is important is what you see along the trail, a trail which goes dead-straight along a cut-line through towering pines or meanders up over the Snake Indian pass or curves back around to another valley.

Following Trails to Exploration

Finally, there are trails which are neither journeys nor destinations, but invite exploration. These sorts of trails just start you in the right direction—sort of like a pointer—and then let you go on. They leave every possibility open – valleys to explore, mountains to climb, rock slides to boulder over. They are like treasure boxes, inviting you inwards.

One such trail leads into the Fryatt Valley. From there, the trail leaves you to explore that valley, and the upper valley, and the mountains that surround the valleys. You may wander at your leisure, with nothing to do but find out what is over that ridge or at the top of that mountain or on the other side of that moraine.

Following Trails in Jasper National Park

Trails demand to be followed. This weekend I climbed the alpine meadows on Mount Edith Cavell with my fiancé and a friend. We made the demanding climb up through the meadows to the promised lookout, and admired the view. But there was a trail that left the lookout and continued down the ridge and up another mountain. A higher place. A better view. I looked at it, and longed, but thought that I had already dragged my friends far enough. Then my fiancé saw the trail, and knew what it demanded.

We followed it. I said we had to get down, we couldn’t leave my friend waiting. He said we weren’t stopping until we got to the top. And what a top it was. A rocky point of mountain, with Mount Edith behind us, Jasper in the distance, and the river and highway curving away through the valley towards the Columbia Icefields, and mountains behind mountains as far into the distance as you could see. We had conquered the mountain and followed the trail, and it had rewarded us.

We followed the trail into Geraldine Lakes the next day. I hiked that trail last year with my mom, and made it as far as the Second Geraldine Lake. There is another lake, beyond that, and a few more, beyond that. First Geraldine is easy to get to, a nice half-hour jaunt up a broad trail. The next lake is only for the hardy; after leaving the first lake, the trail climbs up a boulder-strewn route beside a waterfall to the next valley, and from there, up another steeper, slipperier rock slide to the valley in which is nestled Second Geraldine.

We sat there by the lake, like marmots on a rock, and admired the cold water and warm sunshine and surrounding mountains. There I turned back once again, but the trail meanders on around the shore, to the other side of the lake, and from thence… onwards and upwards… into valleys and meadows unseen except by the very hardy and daring… into places where few men have been… into places where the trail dies out and leaves you to make your own for the next person to follow.

Do you enjoy following trails? What is your favourite trail in Jasper National Park?

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